Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Country information: Lesotho

Published: Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 2,131,000; Members, 606; Branches, 1;Percent LDS .028, or one in 3,516; Africa Southeast Area; Bedfordview South Africa Stake.

Lesotho, previously known as Basutoland, became independent from Britain on 4 October 1966. It's a landlocked country surrounded by South Africa. The people are predominantly Christian, while others follow tribal beliefs. The official language is English, while Sesotho, Zulu, and Xhosa are also spoken.

The first known baptisms were Norman and Irene Halse. They were baptized while visiting Cape Town on 5 February 1931. The first baptism to take place in Basutoland was the Halses' daughter, Norma Renee. This baptism took place on 17 January 1937. This baptism was performed in conjunction with a visit from South African Mission President LeGrand P. Backman. No other visitors representing the Church came until the arrival of June B. Sharp who visited on 29 September 1948.

Scattered Latter-day Saints from the United States lived in Lesotho during the 1970s and 1980s, who were working for humanitarian agencies. In July 1988, South Africa Johannesburg Mission president, Richard J. Snow, organized the Maseru Branch with Garry Massey as president.

The Church received legal recognition on 6 July 1989, and the first missionaries, Marc Modersitzki and Bradley Saunderson arrived in September 1989. They baptized Paul Khobutle and Lawrence van Tonder on 17 December 1989. Elder Neal A. Maxwell became the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve to visit Lesotho on 22 February 1990.

The seminary program was introduced in late 1991. The first full-time missionary from Lesotho, Ts'ooane Patrick Molapo, baptized in 1990, served in the Durban South Africa Mission from 1993-1995.

A branch was created on 4 July 1993 at Mazenod. It functioned for a short time before being discontinued because facilities for meetings were not available. The Maseru Branch eventually purchased and remodeled a home as a meetinghouse. The first meeting held there was 2 January 1994.

In 2002, membership reached 485.

Sources: Record of members, Church Archives; Evan P. Wright, "A History of the South African Mission, 1852-1970"; Cumorah's Southern Cross, Church Library; "Missionaries Serving in Tiny African Kingdom," Church News, 2 December 1989; "'New Day Dawning' in 2 Small African Mountain Kingdoms," Church News, 10 March 1990; "Gospel Pioneers Still Making Inroads on Diverse Continent," Church News, 26 January 1991; South African Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives.